UK’s North Irish ally: No deal Brexit ‘probably inevitable’

Border between Northern Ireland and Irish Republic. A leaked government briefing warns Northern Ireland’s electricity market could collapse in the event of no-deal Brexit. (AFP pic)

LONDON: One of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Northern Irish allies said Monday it was “probably inevitable” that Britain will leave the European Union next March without any agreement.

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), spoke after last-ditch talks between London and Brussels on Sunday failed to reach an agreement on trade rules for the British province of Northern Ireland.

“Given the way in which the EU has behaved and the corner they’ve put Theresa May into, there’s no deal which I can see at present which will command a majority in the House of Commons,” he told the Belfast Newsletter, a local newspaper.

“So it is probably inevitable that we will end up with a no deal scenario.”

After both sides failed to make a breakthrough in talks on Sunday, Britain and the EU are now facing the prospect of beginning a crunch summit on Wednesday without a draft divorce deal.

The sticking point is how to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Britain leaves the bloc’s single market and customs union.

May has proposed that until a wider trade deal is agreed that removes the need for frontier checks, Britain should stay aligned with the EU’s customs rules.

But many of her eurosceptic Conservative lawmakers, including ministers, and the DUP are demanding this have an end date — something Brussels rejects.

May’s Conservative party relies on the DUP’s 10 MPs for a majority in the House of Commons. The Commons will have a vote on any final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.

Wilson added, “I think that anybody looking at it objectively would say that what is on offer from the EU is a far worse deal than a no deal, and therefore she’d be mad to be railroaded into accepting it.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster was due to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin later Monday.